Known for putting on an insane show, The Legwarmers discuss their humble beginnings and their path to becoming an ’80s super band.
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For Matt Kelly, guitarist and vocalist, The Legwarmers just may be the longest running gag that he’s been a part of, and for that he laughs. In fact, for the purposes of this article, he wants to go by Cru Jones, his ’80s alter-ego.
Looking back, Jones doesn’t really remember how he invented this persona—he does remember that Cru Jones was the name of a character from the ’80s BMX film, Rad—he just knows that it exudes the era’s charisma, charm and flare.
“I will say that Cru Jones, either Matt Kelly or Cru Jones, one of them is the alter ego, the other is whatever,” Jones says.
Whether it be a result of personal interest or a running example of extreme creativity, each band member fully embodies the personas they’ve created based off of traditional ’80s tropes. For them it’s second nature and an ode to the classic tongue-in-cheek humor they’ve come to live by.
“We’re sort of almost like these constructed, cartoonish characters of the ’80s; that’s sort of what the band overall is,” Jones says.
For fellow guitarist and vocalist Jorge Pezzimenti, or rather, Gordon Gartrell, his persona allows him to do things he otherwise wouldn’t do.
“There’s certain things that I myself wouldn’t artistically do, like certain guitar techniques or sort of heavy metal guitar things that aren’t in my bag in real life, but I’m allowed to do them in The Legwarmers because if I’m gonna play a Van Halen solo I’m gonna play a Van Halen solo right,” Gartrell says.
Heralded in the area for being one of the most extreme, interesting and eclectic ’80s tribute bands, The Legwarmers have a history as unique as their stage presence.
It all started as a joke back in 2000, a way for a group of friends to kick around, make some music and even score some beers in the process.
“I think we sort of had a name, the idea and the name came at once,” Jones says. “We thought it would be fun, play at a couple parties for keg beer. Here we are all these years later. At some level, it’s just a version of that joke.”
From the very beginning, their first show was indicative of The Legwarmer’s brand—crazy, fun and always ’80s inspired.
“The first show was a house party that got broken up by the cops during the middle of ‘Eye of the Tiger’,” Jones says. “It was like straight out of an ’80s movie.”
From there, their popularity grew, even though they never bothered to think of the possibility.
“Absolutely not. It was just, like I said, this sounds, I don’t know what it sounds like, but it was really just a joke,” Jones says. “It was the humblest of beginnings. And we are not … I don’t claim to be at some lofty heights, but the fact that it’s still going all this time later and the people still want to come see us bang out some ’80s tunes, is beyond what any of us would’ve imagined.”
The band’s popularity is a testament to their uniqueness and authenticity. For example, before each show, the band partakes in a ritual that gets them ready to hit the stage with a level of energy that’s not easily comparable.
“Jolt Cola and Pop Rocks are our pregame ritual,” Gartrell says. “There was an old urban legend—don’t worry about it—but supposedly if you have cola and Pop Rocks at the same time it can make your head explode. But we found that not to be the case, we find that it gives you the perfect pre-show buzz.”
In the end, The Legwarmers believe that they stand out simply because they can put on a good show.
“I just know we try and put on a big show, do the songs as well as we can and just really try and focus on having a fun show … and hopefully the energy feeds back between us and the audience,” Jones says. “We’ve played a lot of these songs hundreds of times, but you’re not trying to just make it a rote thing, you’re trying to be in the moment with that and give something to the crowd and hope they give something back; and I don’t know, maybe a couple beers.”
“It’s a rockin’ good time. But no ‘g’ on rockin’, please be clear,” Gartrell says. “I love that we go up there and it’s hit after hit like bang, bang, bang, bang. As far as I’m concerned, if I’m talking we’re doing something wrong.”
When asked about the band’s future, Jones and Gartrell are as unsure as anyone else.
“As long as we can make it to the next gig without a flat tire and the trailer still intact I think we are coming out ahead,” Jones says. “If you had a crystal ball, I couldn’t tell you.”
“The mission statement is clearly defined as let’s keep doing this for as long as people want it, or my knees can take it, whichever comes first,” Gartrell says.
Regardless of their unforeseeable future and unconventional past, Jones continues to laugh.
“I remember once somebody told me, ‘It’s funny that you guys aren’t joking about the fact that you’re joking,’ and I’m not sure what exactly that meant but I liked it,” he said. “Maybe there’s a wink, but I guess we try to give a fully committed version of the ’80s cover band—we’re not pulling our punches.” // thelegwarmers.com
Interested in seeing The Legwarmers perform? Here are some upcoming concert dates:
July 21: Nationals Park ’80s Night
July 27: The Rusty Rudder, Dewey Beach, Delaware
July 28: State Theatre, Falls Church